Discover Amsterdam’s most moreish meat-free meals, whether you’re a die-hard vegan, a gastronomically inclined vegetarian or simply trying to fit more fibre into your diet.
There was a time when Dutch cuisine revolved around sausage-topped potato dishes floating in gravy. These days, however, more and more locals are going meat-free at least some of the time. The Amsterdam restaurant scene has embraced this trend and now boasts some of the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Europe. Indeed, the city’s ratio of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants per capita is so favourable that Holidu, a search engine for vacation rentals, designated Amsterdam as the top vegan-friendly city in Europe in 2017.
Mr and Mrs Watson
Restaurant, Vegan, $$$
Mr and Mrs Watson is named after the founders of the vegan movement. The mission of this “plant-based food bar for vegan food lovers and cheese addicts” in Oost is to “change the world with good food”. While there are a few interesting options on the all-vegan menu (including a tofu scramble and a barbecue tempeh reuben sandwich), you’re here for the award-winning home-made vegan cheese. Go all out and order the Watson Cheese Platter, which may feature cashew roquefort, or share a cashew fondue and finish with the Say Cheese-Cake.
At this Michelin-star mainstay, executive chef Chris Naylor (restaurant guide Gault&Millau’s Vegetable Chef of the Year 2019) proves that vegetarian fine dining needn’t feel like an afterthought. Meat and fish do feature on the set menu, but it’s easily adapted (do mention your preference when making a reservation, though). Expect prettily presented plates of veg-led food fresh from Naylor’s rooftop kitchen garden, such as paper-thin kimchi ravioli in punchy carrot bouillon.
Everything at this “vegan mylk and burger bar” in De Pijp is 100 percent vegan, from the Beyond Meat patties and buns to the miso-glazed cinnamon buns, creamy vanilla soft serve and boozy shakes. Deer Mama is on a mission to create “cruelty-free comfort food” and does so cheerfully in a millennial-pink interior described as “Peach Pit meets Miami Vice meets Saved by the Bell”.
There are bigger and better-known salad bars in town. However, the bright and modern mini-chain Venkel (Dutch for “fennel”), with outposts in De Pijp and Oost, remains the foodies’ choice for super-fresh locally sourced bowls of goodness. An all-day menu features a variety of satisfying seasonal salads, with a good assortment of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. You can also create your own by picking from a selection of veggies, greens, grains, toppings and dressings.
Who says vegan has to be virtuous? This self-titled “cruelty-free junk food bar” is styled after the quintessential Dutch snack bar (a type of lowbrow Dutch fast-food outlet). However, it features an added helping of hipster edge courtesy of graffiti slogans like “The Future Is Vegan” and “Suck My Bitter Balls”. While you’ll find typical Dutch snacks such as bitterballen (bite-size croquettes) and kapsalon (loaded fries with shawarma) across VJFB’s five Amsterdam locations, there are also burgers, vegan sashimi and eco-friendly cocktails.
Europe’s first avocado-themed eatery was a social media hit even before opening in 2017, and the hype continues with long lines at the trendsetter’s De Pijp outpost. A tip? Head to the newer Zuid location, where you can dine in a calmer environment that features a trendy plant wall with a neon logo as a picture-perfect backdrop for all that Instagrammable avo. Either way, (sustainably sourced) avocado steals the spotlight, though it’s not 100 percent meat-free. Still, there’s avo toast, of course, but you’ll also find avo-based salads, smoothies, pizza and even ice cream.